Doctoral student from India seeks two health degrees

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Deepti Agarwal, a second-year doctoral student in health behavior and health education from India, conducts research on nicotine and substance abuse among students.
Photo Credit: Zoe Fu | Daily Texan Staff

Editor's note: This story is part of a series featuring international students.

When Deepti Agarwal decided to move to America, she had to adjust to a different education system and way of life. But she said her biggest concern was finding vegetarian food within the barbecue-loving state of Texas.

In 2012, Agarwal moved to Austin from India, where she earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Delhi. She got a master’s degree in social work and is currently a second-year doctoral student in health behavior and health education. 

“My love for social work began when I started volunteering in a program funded by the World Health Organization,” Agarwal said. “The program encouraged improved health outcomes among college students in New Delhi.”

She was interested in international law, but because it wasn’t an option in India, she set her sights on UT. Agarwal said through her dedication she was given the Texas New Scholar award, a prestigious fellowship, in 2014 as well as the Joe R. & Teresa Lozano Long Graduate Fellowship in 2015.

While conducting research on substance and nicotine abuse among students, Agarwal also counseled and assisted in the case management for students involved in the study. She realized then she was more interested in the research side of her work and wanted to focus on that. 

After graduating with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in British literature, Agarwal worked with Teach India, an organization dedicated to eliminating educational inequality in India. 

Since she’s bilingual, Agarwal said she didn’t face much of a language barrier. Instead, one of the biggest challenges she faced was adjusting to driving in the U.S. She said it’s very hard to drive around on roads you don’t know and especially harder to have the driving wheel on the left side of the car.

“I have been in the wrong lane many times,” Agarwal said. “I’ve been honked and yelled at.”

Despite her run-ins with road rage, Agarwal said her expectations of the U.S. and Texas weren’t very different than reality, but she was surprised at how friendly people were in Texas. 

I had a lot of friends move to the U.S before me, and they told me about it.” Agarwal said. “People here are very welcoming, which is something I did not expect, thinking they would all be too busy.”  

Overall, Agarwal said her experience here has been pleasant, and she isn’t finding it difficult to make friends from all backgrounds. 

“What started here changed my world,” Agarwal said.